Bryn Aven has spent her life training to be a member of the Högdragen (an elite group of royal guards). Right now she’s a successful, if somewhat outcast, tracker who has yet to lose a changeling. She is determined to not let anything stand in the way of her goal, certainly not a starcrossed affair with Ridley Dresden, her hot boss. Her plans get derailed when Konstantin Black, a former Hogdragon member and current outlaw, starts kidnapping changelings. Bryn is assign to a team to help protect the changelings and put a stop to him, by any means necessary. Can she succeed and gain entry into her dream job or will she fail and watch it all collapse?
I really enjoyed Hocking’s Trylle series, so when I heard she’s was writing a spin-off series, I knew I’d have to read it. Same world, but different tribe of trolls? Bring it on! Sadly, we don’t get much of Loki, just a small glimpse, but we do get to see Finn and Tove. Tove, oh Tove. Le sigh.
I didn’t love Bryn immediately, but she does grow on you…like a fungus. In the first chapter of this, I wanted to slap her. She goes on and on about how in love she is with Konstantin and she’s all dreamy eyed and I really wanted to shake her. Luckily for us, that only lasts for a chapter because Konstantin goes all outlaw and tries to kill her dad. From that point on, Bryn’s only focus is getting on the Hogdagon. It was her goal before and she worked hard as hell towards it, but afterwards, she refuses to even entertain the idea of romance. Sure, she has had boyfriends, but nothing serious. Revenge drives her to be the best tracker she can be. She ignores the growing attraction to her boss, Ridley. They both know nothing could come of a relationship, so she suppresses her feelings and focuses on bringing home changelings and training her body to the brink of exhaustion. When Konstantin reappears, she knows she should kill him. He tried to kill her father and has been evading capture for YEARS. But something about this whole situation feels off and she wonders if Konstantin is really as bad as everyone believes or if someone else is pulling his puppet strings. Her avoidance of emotional relationships both confused and fascinated me. From a very young age, I was obsessed with the concept of love. I spent my high school career with my nose buried in historical romance novels, so reading about someone so adverse to falling in love threw me for a bit of a loop.
Ridley…I…he…He’s no Loki, okay? He’s smart and attractive and it’s obvious he has a thing for Bryn. That’s a little on the creepy side because he’s older and he is her boss, but he quickly wipes the creep factor out with his loyalty. He also doesn’t act on his feelings. He makes a conscience effort to avoid that not just because of the threat to his job, but also because he knows Bryn well enough to know how it would affect her. That had me smiling a bit. He’s backstory confuses me because it shows how he despises playboy’s, yet Bryn portrays him as a bit of a playboy. Regardless, he was a character I enjoyed and that tension between him and Bryn is perfect.
I will admit that it has been a LONG time since I read the Trylle series. In fact, Kandice is currently plowing through the final book and not particularly enjoying it. It made me wonder if maybe my reading tastes have changed on the past few years. After reading this, I tend to doubt it. This felt a great deal like that, but told from an entirely different perspective. We don’t get the changeling, struggling to understand the truth and learn an entirely new culture. We get an outcast. A half-breed who isn’t really accepted anywhere, but neither can she be cast out. I think anyone who loved the trylle series will enjoy this. It’s a bit slow to start, but it hooks you in pretty quickly and it wholly entertaining. It does end on a horrid cliffhanger, but that’s really to be expected at this point, right?
This is the third….forth Eileen Stevens book I’ve listened to now. The jury is still out on my opinion of her. In the first two, both novel’s from Krystal Wade’s Darkness Falls series, I wasn’t impressed. That could be contributed to the fact that I just didn’t really like the story, so I don’t hold that against her. Then it was Devil In Denim by Melanie Scott and she was pretty great in that. Here she was okay? Her accent is a little…off? Once you get into the story and Bryn describes how her people talk, it makes a bit more sense, but it was still a bit off-putting in the start. She also says Konstantin different than I imagined it to be said. This isn’t the first time a narrator and I have disagreed on how a name should be pronounced and I have no idea if Hocking was consulted on the proper pronunciation, but it looks like the name Constantine, right? I would think it would be pronounced the same. They just changed the name and dropped the “e,” which doesn’t make much of a difference. But she says it CON-STAN-TEN. Ten, like a ten dollar bill, instead of teen. Now, this could all just be me, but every time she said his name, I cringed. Beyond that, she was a great as I remember from last time. She has good pacing and does a great job with differentiating who is speaking. I would say I enjoyed her overall performance, despite my nit-picky-ness.
****Thank you to Esther Bochner at Audible for providing me with an audio copy in exchange for an honest review****